Riassunto: Steve goes looking for Bucky in the mountain where a terrible machine made of metal lives. It goes as well as it can be expected.
Note: Scritta per la M5 della 7° settimana del COWT9 per "Metallo"
There's a legend that talks about a monster that lives on the other side of the mountain, far enough from Steve's village that many people don't know the details of the legend, or if it's even true or not, but close enough that people still worry about it every night, especially when they see the high smoke float up from that side of the mountain in a macabre spectacle.
The legend talks about a monster made of metal, that terrorizes anyone that walks inside the forest, stalking them and killing them at the first opportunity.
People don't know much about him because no one has ever met him and live enough to tell the tell or so, at least, the legend says.
Steve doesn't know what to believe, of course, but there's not much he can do when, one day, Bucky doesn't come home.
Steve told him that he was an idiot, that going alone inside the forest, traversing the mountain, was suicide, but Bucky hadn't listened to him.
He knows that their mission is important, as two of the only warrior inside their village, it's their duty to patrol the area and make sure they don't receive an ambush from the creatures that live outside of the barrier of the city, but Bucky should have waited for Steve to be free. They could have taken their patrol together and made sure nothing happened to them.
Instead a day has passed, and Bucky is nowhere to be seen.
"You realize you can't go alone, right?" Clint asks him, watching him as he puts on the suit. "It's the same exact thing Bucky has done and you told him yourself that it was a terrible idea. You have to know this, Steve."
He knows, of course he knows. But what other choice does he have? Clint is hurt, a parting gift of the last battle they fought. Sam is on another patrol and Steve can't wait for him to come back.
Every moment that passed Bucky might be dead or worse and Steve wouldn't be able to live with himself if he didn't everything in his power to save him and bring him back to the village.
"Clint..." he starts, but his tone might be answer enough because Clint sighs and shakes his head.
"You're a fucking idiot. You know what will happen? You will get yourself killed too, and then where will that leave us? A village without two of their best, and only, warriors."
Even if Steve doesn't like to admit it, Clint is right. What he's doing is reckless and stupid not only for himself, but for the rest of the village as well. Steve knows that he's being selfish and reckless, but Bucky deserves it.
"I'll try my best to come back," he promises, putting an hand over Clint's shoulder, "but in the meantime I live you in charge."
"Wait, for real?" Clint asks, surprised, looking wildly around, like maybe Steve is talking to someone else.
"Only until an adult comes back," Steve immediately replies with a smirk. Clint's entire face freezes and then falls.
"You're a dick," he sighs, pushing Steve's hand away, "I don't know why I'm even worried about you. Go and get yourself killed, good riddance."
Steve laughs and smiles at his friend. "I'll be back soon, Clint, try not to blow up the entire village."
The mountain is harder to climb that Steve expected, but he pushes forward. Every step he takes, the cold takes better hold of his bones, and Steve has already lost sensation in two of his fingers. It's not a good sign.
If he doesn't find a place to protect himself from the cold, he might have to break his promise to Clint. The worst thing is that he's been calling Bucky all day, without an answer.
His friend, his brother really, might already be dead and Steve will soon follow him.
Isn't this just poetic?
"Goddammit, Bucky," he murmurs under his breath, but it comes out shakier than he would like. His lips are almost frozen solid, and when he tries to hidratate them, his tongue almost gets stuck to them.
There's not a single cavern in sight and Steve curses all the gods. Is this really the end of the line for him? He refuses to believe so.
Before he can try and think of a way to get himself out of this disaster, he hears a rustle behind him and then a heavy thump, like a footfall.
He turns, surprised and alert, and hears a couple more. Something is getting closer, it seems, and it's probably nothing good.
The next step has a metalling twinge to it and Steve freezes. Impossible, really.
He can't move, looking in front of him, too shocked to move, while an armor completely made of metal, bigger than Steve, steps out of the forest looking straight at Steve.
The legend, he thinks, it's true then. How is it possible?
What terrible beast is this?
The armor raises a hand, and Steve can see some kind of armor shine from his palm. Forget the cold, he thinks, if he doesn't move it will be the beast that will have his head.
Steve turns, then, and trying to find the last remnant of his strength he starts to run. The ice makes it ten times more difficult, and every step is torture on his legs, but Steve refuses to stop and give up and he pushes more.
He doesn't turn, but the step of the beast keep following him, and they seem to be getting faster, as if the creature was trying to reach him.
Fuck, Steve needs to up his game.
But he's tired, half frozen and hungry and it's really only a matter of time until the weather winds the battle against Steve's force of will, and after five minutes of running, Steve feels his legs give up under him.
He falls face first into the snow and when he tries to stand up, he finds that he's unable to. There's no strength left in him, nothing for him to do. This, he thinks, will be his end, alone in a mountainside, killed by something that should have only been a legend.
There are many ways Steve thought his death would go, and he never imagined this.
A couple of seconds later, he feels the hand of the armor touch his shoulder and turn him, removing his face from the snow. Steve blinks up into the eerily blue eyes of the machine and thinks fuck this is a terrible way to die before he passes out.
The first thing Steve notices when he wakes up is that he's not dead. It might not be much, but considering his last memory, it's surprising.
The second thing he realizes is that someone is talking. Annoyed mutterings that are almost too low for Steve to make out. Something about a useless set of dolts and "Am I making a collection?"
It's then that Steve opens his eyes and starts looking around. He's in a cavern, or at least it appears like one, but there's stuff all around. Stuff he has never seen before. Things that seem to be weapons and house decors, but look nothing like it.
He turns towards the voice and he's shocked to see the beast, or at least part of it, and a human head sticking out of it.
What he's more shocked to see is that on a coth near Steve lies Bucky. "Bucky!" He screams, scrambling to reach his friend. He seems to be breathing still, but he doesn't have an arm anymore. The stump seems to have been treated and it's not bleeding anymore, but it's a terrible sight.
"Oh, you're awake," the creature says, and Steve turns towards him, wary. The fact that he's a human doesn't mean much, he might still be plotting to kill them. Humans are usually the worst of the bunch. "Why are you looking at me like that?" the beast says, annoyed. "I saved you and your friend and you're looking at me like i'm a terrible person. Talk about being ungrateful."
Steve blinks, surprised. "Saved us?"
"What? You think you two appeared here out of magic?" the man who wears the beast armor asks him, with a huff. "I picked you up when you fell down and I helped your friend when I found him in the ravine. He must have fallen down from way up... there was nothing I could do for his arm."
Steve has no reason to trust him, really, but there's something in the man's eyes that makes it hard for Steve to distrust him. And there's also the thing that Steve wouldn't know how else to explain that he's alive, really.
"I... thank you, I guess. I'm just..." he stops then, unsure on how to explain his doubts, but the other man picks up on them and huffs.
"Surprised because the terrible beast from the legends isn't that blood thirsty after all?" the man wonders, with an amused smirk. He tries to hide it, but Steve can tell that this pains him. "Don't worry, you're not the first one to run away the moment he sees me. At least you didn't break your neck."
Steve nods and then, because he feels like he owes it to this man, thanks him again. "I'm really grateful, not only because you saved me, but because you saved Bucky. It means a lot to me."
The man shakes his head and turns around, seemingly uncomfortable with Steve's gratitude.
"Don't worry about it, okay? He still hasn't regained consciousness, and I didn't want to move him. So just wait here until the storm passes and your friends gets better. Or drag him out, I don't care," he says, gruffly. It's then that Steve notices the little robot that is peeking from behind the giant armor.
Robots aren't exactly common in Steve's village or in the capital. Not many people are able to wield the kind of magic required to animate a piece of metal. but he shouldn't be surprised to discover that the man with a metal armor bigger than himself is a metakie.
Still, the little robot has only one eye - if that's what someone wants to call it, it looks more like a claw than anything - and he's peering at Steve curiously. The moment he notices that he's been spotted, he hides behind the armor again only to peek back a couple of seconds later.
It's... strangely cute and Steve smiles at him and waves.
The robot watches him and then uses the single claw to wave back.
It's then that the man notices the exchange and puts the robot out of Steve's gaze with a gruff: "What are you doing you dummy? Help me work if you have time to wave."
Steve can't even complain, really, and he turns back towards Bucky, watching over him.
Hours later Bucky hasn't woken up and Steve is, as terrible as it sounds, incredibly bored. There's not much that Steve can do to take care of Bucky, really, and so he has been spending the last two hours watching his face and, when he thinks he can get away with it, studying the man with the armor.
The beast of legends is... very much not a beast and Steve can't help but wonder how the stories got started, why the man hasn't removed the armor yet and how he made it in the first place.
He seems to be a skilled metakie, from what Steve has seen (even if Steve isn't really that good with any kind of magic) but creating that kind of armor and maintaining it functional would require a stellar amount of concentration and a well of magical power.
Steve can't ask, right? It would be rude, and he already owes a lot to this stranger.
Still, he can at least try to peek at him when the other doesn't notice, right?
The only thing Steve has to do is keep his mouth shut until Bucky regains consciousness and then they can walk away.
The man, beast, armor, has been working on something that Steve can’t see, and the entire situation is strange enough without Steve making it stranger. So really, he’s sitting away like grateful host.
It’s then that, surprisingly, the other man breaks the silence. There’s the sound of something metal falling to the ground and then a very colorful string of curses. Steve blinks and then turns, surprised, to see the man pounding his fist into the ground loud enough for the little robot to whirl a little bit in panic.
“Calm down, Dummy. Sorry, sorry…” the man mumbles, looking at something at his feet.
Once agai the polite thing to do would be to ignore the exchange and mind his own business, Steve knows this, but he’s never been good at doing what he was supposed to do.
“Uhm, everything all right?” he asks, trying to look over the other’s workspace.
The armor’s head turns and he glares at Steve for a second. He seems to be annoyed, yes, but he’s evaluating Steve intensely. “How strong are you exactly?”
Steve blinks, surprised by the question, before shrugging. “Pretty strong?”
The other studies him for a couple of seconds more before nodding. “Fine, okay, stand up and get here. I need help with this thing, and Dummy isn’t strong enough.”
It’s a surprising request, but one too good to pass up. Steve sends one last look towards Bucky to make sure he’s still asleep and then he stands up and hurries towards the other.
When he sees what the other man has been working on, he freezes. On a stone table there’s a metallic arm, Steve can see the strings of magic coursing through it. It’s a human arm, much smaller than the armor.
He knows immediately that this is supposed to be Bucky’s new arm. Of course, with metal magic and metakies becoming a common occurrence, prosthetics weren’t that unheard of, but they were usually expensive and nothing that usually made it out to their little village.
“Don’t just stand there and stare,” the armor huffs, annoyed, “I need to angle it a certain way to work on the inside. Just hold it up.”
Steve, who still doesn’t know what he’s supposed to say, or if there’s anything he can say, nods and does as requested, holding up the heavy arm. It’s heavier than it looks, but Steve doesn’t say anything while the other works.
Still, the armor must be feeling talkative now. “I know that it’s heavy, but once the magic is activated it will be much lighter. The idea behind it is similar to some of my armor, but of course much different.”
“You’re making an arm for my friend…” Steve whispers, incredulous and yet still confused. There’s so much he doesn’t know about this man, and the armor he still hasn’t removed or even attempted to.
His words, however, seem to be completely misinterpreted by the other man, who furrows his brows and seems to lose some of the vitality he had acquired while he was talking about his invention. “He inspired me. I’m doing it for myself, he doesn’t have to take it. Maybe I don’t even want to give it to him, after all you all only caused me trouble.”
He’s muttering again, working quickly and refusing to look at Steve. He’s offended, that’s true, but he thinks he can read some uncertainty as well. Maybe even a little bit of fear.
“You misunderstand me,” Steve tries then, feeling a little anxious, “I’m merely… grateful. You didn’t have to save us, and you certainly didn’t have to do this…”
For all intents and purposes, Steve and Bucky should be dead now, punished for their foolishness, but this man saved them and, it seems, he’s now putting his magic at work for them.
“Oh,” the man comments, surprised, he blinks and turns towards Steve, tried to read insincerity in his eyes. If there’s one thing everyone agrees with is that Steve is the worst liar to walk the earth. “Uhm, I guess you’re welcome? I mean… it was kind of a drag. You’re not that light.”
Steve smiles and nods. “I’m Steve,” he says, because he hopes to have a name to call the other that isn’t “beast” or “armor”.
It takes a minute before the other murmurs, low and strangely shy, “I’m Tony.”
Still, he thinks it’s a step in the right direction, and wherever this path will lead them, Steve is a sucker for positive reinforcement.
“Then let me formally thank you, Tony, for saving me and Bucky, I wouldn’t have known what to do if he was dead…” he says, sincerely, sneaking another look at his best friend.
Tony shrugs and then get back to work. “I’m not one to judge, I’ve done my fair share of stupid shit, but you two aren’t the brightest in the bunch are you? What brought you to the mountain with this weather?”
Immediately, Steve wants to ask about what stupid shit has Tony done and if any of them had anything to do with the creation of the legend, but he doesn’t want to push his luck.
“We patrol the area around the village everyday,” he responds, honestly, “I don’t know if you can see it from here, but there’s a little village at the feet of this mountain.”
Tony doesn’t say anything for a couple of seconds before nodding. “Yeah, when the weather is nice you can see it pretty well from here,” he answers, a little gruffly, “you guys have a shitty defense infrastructures.”
It’s true, of course. No one of them is a very good builder. They might have warriors between their midst, and even a good strategist or two, but they lack any metakie or anyone who has magic worth a damn.
Building the old fashioned way, while still viable, was difficult to do when they were attacked almost every day by the monsters that lived in the forest. Of course, Steve has been worrying about that for a while and that’s the only sane reason why he then asks: “Would you like to help with that?”
Tony seems to be as surprised as Steve is, honestly, and he stops working only to look strangely at him. “You do realize I’m a metallic beast, right? People are scared about me. There are legends about it.”
Steve shrugs, refusing to be intimidated. “You saved us, and while I don’t know much about you,” he stops, uncertain now if this is the right path to take. He might be pushing too much, running his mouth and talking about something he knows nothing about. But when has that ever stopped him? “You seem pretty human to me.”
Tony stops completely at that, letting go of his work tools and standing up. Up close the dimension of the armor is even more massive than from afar, especially now that Tony is standing up and showing off his dimensions.
He could easily pick up Steve and throw it at the wall, if he wanted. There’s no doubt that Steve isn’t in n advantageous position right now. He’s not scared, however.
“Human? Have you actually seen me, Steve?” Tony asks, harsh and angry. Steve doesn’t answer, it would be useless. This is obviously a sore spot, even if he doesn’t know why, and he stays silent while Tony’s hand grips the stone table hard enough to crack it. “There’s nothing human about me.”
Steve wants to disagree, but the moment he opens his mouth to say something, they hear a moan from behind them and Steve looks on to see Bucky’s form moving slightly.
As much as he wants to finish this with Tony, he knows that he has to be there to make sure that Bucky is fine and that he doesn’t freak out too much by the loss of the arm.
He side steps Tony, not showing him any sign of fear, and walks quickly towards the other’s cot. “Bucky?” he asks, trying to angle his friend’s face towards him.
Bucky’s eyes are half-lidded and not all that conscious, but he seems to have recognized Steve. He murmurs something that might have been his name or gibberish, and Steve smiles at him, sincerely relieved.
“Next time you do something like this to me, I’m kicking your ass so hard you won’t be walking straight for a month,” he warns his, entirely serious, even if Bucky can’t really understand him. “For now, you’re safe, Buck. Sleep.”
For a moment it looks like Bucky will not follow his instruction and fight sleep like the stubborn ass he is, but then he closes his eyes and goes back to sleep.
Steve watches over him for a second more before turning back towards Tony. The other is turned away, and he seems to have gotten back to working.
The silence between them stretches with awkwardness and the last of Tony’s aggression. Steve doesn’t know how to pick the discussion back up, and he feels that maybe he shouldn’t. Tony saved Steve’s life, but that is no permission for Steve to invade his and push him to do something he doesn’t want to do.
Still, he looks around at the cold and bare cavern that seems to double as Tony’s home, and something pings in his chest.
Never one to leave strays well alone, are you, Steve? Bucky’s voice comes into his mind.
“You saved us, that’s human enough,” he says in the end, sitting back down. Doubtfully Tony would want his help again, and Steve doesn’t want to get closer when the other doesn’t want him to.
It’s difficult to gauge Tony’s reaction from behind. The armor doesn’t betray anything and Steve can’t see if he has tensed up, or if he’s trembling with rage. There’s only silver metal, unmoved.
When he doesn’t receive any kind of response for almost a minute he turns back towards Bucky and just resign himself to a long and silent watch.
He keeps hearing noises from the other side of the room: hushed conversation between Tony and his robots, the sound of tools hitting metal, and other things he doesn’t recognize. The temptation to turn and look is strong, but Steve fights it as furiously as he can.
Another five minute pass before Steve feels something touch his leg. When he looks down he sees the little robot handing him something with his claw-eye. It looks like food, a mush that doesn’t look exactly edible, but that Steve accepts all the same.
“Is this for me? Thank you,” he says, with a smile, an the little robot chirps happily and then runs back towards Tony only to run back again with something else in his claw. It looks like the exact replica of the plate he has, and Steve wonders if it’s for Bucky.
He puts down his own plate and takes the offered one. “Thank you, really,” he replies, smiling again, and he can see the robot getting a little worked up. He chirps happily again, and then he opens and close his claw, running back where he came from.
Steve doesn’t know what to do with the two plates, but before he can start eating one of the two, Tony’s voice stops him, a little gruffly.
“He’s not the best cook,” Tony mumbles, “and there isn’t much to cook anyway. Also if you don’t stop thanking him he’s going to bring you even more…” he stops, when they both see the robot with another plate in his claw, running towards Steve. Tony blocks him, with a huff. “See? He already has two plates, Dummy. What is he going to do with three, you stupid piece of scrap metal?” Tony mutters.
He doesn’t sound angry or that annoyed, if Steve is honest, he sounds fond. The robot chirps sadly, and then moves the plate up and down. Tony laughs.
“I know, but you can’t give him all the food we have, I need to eat it as well,” two seconds later the robot is pushing the plate in Tony’s face rather aggressively and Steve has to stifle a laugh. “No! Bad Dummy! I can’t eat it like this, you know that. I… Are you laughing back there, Steve? Is this the respect I get?”
It’s such a sudden change from the sullen treatment up until that point that Steve can’t help but laugh in earnest. It seems that whatever possessed Tony before is now gone and Steve is glad for it even if he’s disappointed that he lost his timing to intervene.
He eats his food and wakes up Bucky enough to feed him his before he falls back to sleep. The food isn’t exactly good, but it’s edible enough and Steve had eaten worst things in his life.
Still, Steve is restless. He isn’t used to staying still so long, not recently anyway, and he feels fine. Now that he’s a little more appeased about Bucky’s condition, there’s really nothing distracting him from the thought of home.
Steve stands up from his post at Bucky’s side and sits down in front of the cavern entrance. It’s colder there, and Steve can feel the bite of the weather against his skin, but he doesn’t move. Snow is still falling from the sky, faster than he can count it, and as much as he wants to do something, he knows he wouldn’t survive the trek, especially because he can’t leave Bucky here.
Still, he wonders if there has been a new attack, if the others are back, if Clint is worried. Would they send someone to search for them even in this weather, just like Steve stupidly did?
“You’re going to freeze if you stay there,” Tony says, and when Steve glances back he can see the other watching him, curiously.
He’s probably right, but Steve still doesn’t move. “I was thinking about home,” he answers honestly, “when I left there weren’t a lot of able warriors left. Most had been summoned away or busy on a long patrol. I’m just…”
A couple of seconds pass before the other helpfully points out: “You don’t do well standing still.”
Steve shrugs, because it’s probably the most polite way anyone has ever described him. He’s a stupid ass who can’t sit still to save his fucking life, is what usually Bucky says.
“I did too much of it when I was younger,” he explains, even if he doesn’t know why, “and now I just enjoy doing something. It makes me feel less useless.”
Another couple of seconds of silence before Steve hears metallic footsteps reaching him. He doesn't move, nor react in any way, while Tony maneuvers himself to sit beside Steve.
The entrance of the cavern is just big enough for them to sit side by side, and if Steve moved a little he could touch the other’s armor easily. He stands still.
“You haven’t asked… anything about me,” Tony says, confused, “even after… that scene I made.”
Steve doesn’t want a repeat from before, so he tries to guess how to avoid it. He doesn’t know Tony enough to guess the pitfalls of this conversation, but he has always been good at thinking on the fly.
“It didn’t seem like you wanted to talk about it,” he answers, trying to keep his tone neutral.
“Yes, but you invited me to your village. And you obviously care a lot about it and you…” he stops, huffs, “you know jack shit about me. That’s stupid, Steve.”
It probably is. He knows that Natasha would chew him out, but how can he explains that most of his decisions come from his gut and not his brain? Tony seems to be someone who’s at war with himself and he might not understand Steve’s decision process.
“You saved us when you could have left us to die,” Steve tells him, because Tony might understand it better if he gives him proof for his reasoning. “You’re working on a arm for Bucky, without us asking you to or, apparently, demanding anything in exchange.”
“What do you know?” Tony replies, immediately, with a flippant tone. “Maybe I want you to stay here, maybe the arm has a curse that slowly sips the life away from your friend and gives it to me.”
It’s the way he says that, with a little bit of a catch at the end, that has Steve turn towards him and ask him: “Is that what your armor is?”
He sees Tony’s face freeze, like Steve actually punched him. Maybe Tony isn’t used to hanging out with perceptive people, or maybe he’s just not used to hanging out with anyone at all.
“You can’t just ask that,” Tony says, his voice almost a whisper.
Steve shrugs, but doesn’t take back the question. He lets Tony absorb it, turn it in his head and reach a conclusion all on his own. He can ignore Steve if he so wishes, go back to his work and leave him to his musing.
Instead, Tony talks. “Yeah. I mean, it was supposed to anyway,” he taps in the middle of his chest, where Steve sees a ball of what seems like glass. It shine with the telltale glow of active magic. “Here is where all my life force would be stored, transformed into magic. One I was dead, he would have just took it and boom, portable well of magic.”
“He?” Steve asks, but he sees Tony’s eyes turn haunted. This, he thinks, might be a story for another day.
“It doesn’t matter,” Tony says, “I killed him. Broke the curse, or some of it anyway. It’s not killing me at least.”
“But you can’t remove it,” Steve guesses, with a slight turn of his head.
Tony makes a face like he’s shrugging and then he looks at his own unmoving metal shoulders annoyed. “Yeah. I’m stuck like this. I’ve been working on it, it’s… long. I can remove the helmet now at least. Eating before was… strange.”
Steve doesn’t understand much about magic, but he nods and looks up at the other man.
“Why don’t you think you’re human, Tony?” he asks, because this is the one thing whirling inside his head.
Tony’s face clouds and he refuses to look in Steve’s direction. “This armor is all I am now, Steve. I mean, I tried to ask for help in the beginning, but people would just run away from me. They thought I was some kind of weapon. It’s easier to stay here, you know? Also I killed someone. Don’t forget that.”
“Someone who put a curse on you and wanted to kill you, Steve reminds him, incensed. It looks to me like it was self defense,” he says, honestly. “And the armor is just something that happened to you, it’s not you. This curse… I don’t want to say you’ll be free of it soon, because I don’t want to make promises I can’t keep, but it doesn’t define you.”
Tony scoffs, and so Steve stands up and walks in front of the other, making sure that the other man could see him fully. After that he walks forward a couple of steps, until he’s at arms-reach from the core of the armor. He moves slowly enough that Tony could push him at any time, and slowly he puts his hand over the glass.
It’s not a normal glass, that much it’s obvious, and it hums with the amount of magic imbued into it. It makes Steve wonder how much of Tony’s life essence is stored in there, how much he has left.
“You survived,” Steve tells him, low but with his commanding voice, “and that’s more important than anything else.”
Tony looks into his eyes, almost as if he’s unable to look away, and Steve holds his gaze with all the stubbornness and conviction he can muster. He means what he said, and he means the promise hidden in there as well.
“Once Bucky wakes up and can move again, he’ll need help with the new arm,” Steve continues, “and you said it yourself, we need help with the walls of the village. You can do a lot of good, and I think you don’t want to live inside a mountain alone forever.”
Tony remains silent for a couple of seconds before he says: “I’m not leaving Dummy behind.” His voice wavers a little, like he’s trying not to cry, but Steve decides to ignore it.
“Of course,” he immediately says, smiling, “honestly i want him to come more than I want you. I feel like we bonded.”
At hearing his own name the little robot whirs towards them, standing behind Tony and looking at them. He seems anxious to Steve, but he doesn’t know if he feels the same thing they do.
Instead of responding to the joke, Tony murmurs, low: “Are you really sure? What if someone says anything? What if they’re scared?”
There are kids and adults that have been scared almost all their life, Steve thinks, and it’s probable that they won’t react well to Tony at first, but he knows the heart of his people. He knows how generous and welcoming they can be, and so he can say for sure: “They’ll learn. They’ll adapt. I can’t promise you they won’t be scared in the beginning, but me and Bucky will vouch for you. And I have, let’s say, a sway with the guy in charge.”
Tony looks at him for a second before huffing. He’s amused, however, and Steve counts it as a win. “You’re in charge of a village? You’re too trusting. And too reckless.”
It’s something Nat and Bucky have told him many times before and he can’t help but smile. “See? You already know the spiel, you’ll get along great with everyone else.”
Tony seems to be hesitating still, but Steve, who doesn’t know how to settle for a hand when he can take the whole arm, pushes more. “You’ve helped us, let me help you.”
The other doesn’t reply for a moment before he shakes his head. “Honestly it looks like you want me to follow you just to work,” Tony murmurs, but he’s smiling, a shy little thing, “and I mean, you two are clearly hopeless, so I have no expectation for the people of this town. Someone has to make sure you don’t just kill yourself out of sheer stupidity.”
Steve doesn’t say that he has pretty capable people at his side, he just nods, gravely. “You caught me, I just want someone sensible in the village. Also someone who is capable of using magic the way you do.”
Tony laughs and shakes his head. “You’re not used to having someone say no to you, are you?”
He shrugs, conceding the point. “Not when I want something badly enough.”
“Fine, you stubborn ass, I’ll come with you. Dummy, pack up, it seems we’re moving into the village.”
Steve smiles, letting Tony stand up and moving back inside. Yes, he thinks, this feels right. He watches Tony mumble with his robot, and while he still doesn’t know what they can do for Tony, or how Bucky will react to the loss of his arm, he thinks they’ll be fine in the end.
Just then Bucky wakes up again and Steve rushes to his side. “Buck?”
“Steve, I dreamt I saw an armor of metal move by himself,” he says, looking a little crazed, “I mean, what the fuck?”
“I prefer Tony, actually,” Tony points out from the other side of the cavern and Bucky widens his eyes.
Tony, on the other end, looks terrified. Drawn up in himself like he expects Bucky to scream. Steve knows his best friend better.
“Well, that’s fucking cool.”
Yeah, they’ll be fine.